New York bidding on casinos for better financial luck


Albany, NEW YORK—New York State passed a casino referendum Nov. 5 to amend the New York constitution, allowing for seven Vegas-type casinos to be built in the state. The referendum passed with 57 percent of the vote according to USA Today.

Four of the seven casinos will be built in the Catskills, Southern Tier and Albany areas of Upstate New York, reported USA Today. For the first seven years these casinos will have the right to exclusivity. However, The Wall Street Journal confirmed that after the seven years, there are plans to build a casino in New York City.

Governor Andrew Cuomo hopes that the casinos will aid Upstate New York in its financial struggles. According to Syracuse.com, the first four casinos are expected to make $1 billion in revenue, of which $430 million will go to school districts and local governments. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Cuomo hopes to use the casino plans as part of his 2014 campaign to show he has addressed a major 2010 campaign promise to turnaround the upstate economy.”

Cuomo pushed for the referendum claiming that it will bring jobs and tourists to the region. “I think it will keep the money in this state, and I think it’s a major economic development vehicle for the Hudson Valley especially and for upstate New York,” Cuomo said, according to USA Today.

Photo from stargazette.com

Photo by stargazette.com

A group known as “New York Jobs Now” promoted the casino amendment and raised over $4 million for the campaign, The New York Times reported. “New York Jobs Now” is primarily backed by gambling interests such as operators of the racetrack slot machines and labor groups that will gain from the supposed job surge. This massive campaign proved very effective against the low-budget campaign of the opposition.

Money wasn’t the only object on the side of those pushing for casinos. The amendment was worded in favor of casinos on the ballot, attributing the referendum with the role of “promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes,” reported The New York Times.

The phrasing of the ballot was brought into question last month in a law suit brought on by, Eric J. Snyder, a Brooklyn bankruptcy lawyer, according to The New York Times. Snyder claimed that according to the state election laws, state amendments should be concise and simply state the purpose and effect using common words. However Snyder’s law suit was thrown out of court because the judge claimed it was “lacking legal merit.”

Since the referendum was passed, there have already been three proposals for public casinos in the Catskills according to USA Today. Tioga Downs and Saratoga Raceway are among those proposals and, currently as raceway casinos, they “expect to bid to be full-scale casinos.”

USA Today reported that “Casino operators already indicated they will seek licenses from the State Gaming Commission.” Cuomo’s Gaming Commission will also review bids.

King’s students remain skeptical about whether or not casinos will be the answer to the Upstate New York financial problems.

Gary Barnes, ’15, said, “They make it seem like it’s for educational purposes. You go to a casino, spend your money, and you’re helping the school kids. It seems something like what Toms does where they allow you to feel good about your actions by sending some of the money to a good cause. But there’s something that seems kind of fake about that.”

Charlie Durham, ’14, is also concerned and wonders if New York should turn to casinos to promote growth.

“I am skeptical how much these will help depressed areas of New York,” Durham said. “Is it actually helping growth or is it just ignoring a deeper problem? Morally, allowing casinos is a dubious proposition. Gambling may not be intrinsically wrong but it is an activity that is easily abused.”

The official law will go into effect Jan. 1.